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Fast Foreword: The Editor's Column, Fall 2021

By Tom White

Dear Readers,

What the past 20 months have unleashed upon the world underscores the urgency to center trauma and mental health in our ongoing conversations, and in this issue of Documentary.

This past winter, we published a first-person account from cinematographer Jenni Morello about her experiences filming in troubled regions—and her struggles to address the traumas that ensued. Morello’s account inspired us to inquire about other trigger-laden phases of documentary filmmaking, such as post-production. We reached out to seasoned editor Miranda Yousef, who discusses her own experiences working with unsettling footage over long periods of time, and the steps she took, with the help of Columbia University’s Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, to manage her self-care.

With news outlets and major production companies calling for fast-paced, action-packed stories, "fixers" based in dangerous territories are in high demand to take on risky, often death-defying assignments. And while the pay is good, the psychological toll of the work has compelled many fixers to reassess the worth of their profession. Ciara Long talks to several fixers in Central and South America about this underappreciated and unforgiving career.

Duty of care for a filmmaker’s protagonists has been a front-and-center topic for entities like the Documentary Accountability Working Group as they’re developing a de facto code of ethics with respect to the power dynamics intrinsic to the documentary practice. Priyanka Borpujari looks into how this fundamental relationship has played out among Indian filmmakers.

Rebecca Sosa observed first-hand as a distributor, then as an impact strategist, the emotional pressure that independent filmmakers often feel. She has parlayed this observation into a passion: She is working towards a master’s degree in clinical psychology. Sosa discusses how mental health must be addressed in our community.

Finally, there’s the audience. Nick Stuart of Odyssey Impact and Kirsten Kelly of Transform Films have developed a program to prepare audiences for screenings that have the potential to trigger traumatic reactions. Stuart and Kelly share their ideas with Katie Murphy.

Yours in actuality,

Tom White